Where did Saul of Tarsus get the authority to arrest Christians in Damascus?

The Sanhedrin was the religious court in Jerusalem that was required to comply with the laws of Rome. Jerusalem was in the Roman province of Judea. Damascus, hundreds of miles away, was in the seperate Roman province of Syria with its own governor. Roman law ruled in the province of Syria just like it did in the province of Judea and every other Roman province. Roman law was fairly tolerant of different religions, (there was no persecution of Christians at that time) and would surely look down on anyone coming from a different province, armed only with documents from a religious Judeian court that had no juristiction in Syria. Why did Saul think he was going to get away with breaking Roman law by essetially kidnaping people in Syria and dragging them back to Jerusalem? Or did he just make it all up?


Even as a Roman citizen, he would not have the authority to arrest people just because they believed something different than him. Saul also only used his Roman citizenship when he himself was in a jam, when the Religious laws of Judea were about to get him strung up, he appealed to the governor, that as a Roman he had the right to appeal to the Emperor.

Update 2:

The Sanhedrin had no authority in Syria, which was not part of Judea, was not a Jewish province, and whose citizens enjoyed the protection of Roman law.

Update 3:

Mr Teal has also missed the point. The Sanhedrin was the highest religious authority in Judea, Damascaus was not in Judea, it was in Syria, which was not a Jewish province.

Update 4:

I guess that there is no reasonable answer to this question since everyone continues to ignore the basic fact.

Therefore I must conclude that Saul made the whole thing up.

Update 5:

No Suzanne, you have missed the point. Syria was not an independent country, it was a Roman province seperate from the province of Judea. Jewish law did not have any weight in the Roman, pagan, province of Syria. The governor of Syria would surely be put out by some Jew waving papers around from some foreign religion's court saying he could arrest those he wanted to in Syria. Bottom line is that Saul did not have the authority, not as a Roman citizen, not as an agent of the Sanhedrin, or any other authority to arrest people in the province of Syria and transport them to the province of Judea. it is an incident that was fabricated to make Sauls so called conversion seem more dramatic.

7 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Paul was a fraud that made up the story which became Christianity.

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  • 1 decade ago

    The Romans did not intervene in religious matters involving non-citizens in conquered lands. However, it did curb some of the Sanhedrin's power so Rome could maintain order; this included removing the Sanhedrin's authority to put someone to death. During this time, the Sanhedrin also didn't have the power to compel a Jew with Roman citizenship to appear before it to answer religious charges; but it DID have power to compel the appearance of a Jew accused of breaking religious law. Therefore, we can conclude that Saul's authority was limited according to the citizenship status of the person(s) he sought to arrest.

    EDIT: The Syrian government didn't exist -- in terms of government, only Roman rule existed; but as I have explained, the Romans permitted the Sanhedrin to keep their authority over religious matters involving Jews, no matter where they were. I think you're missing the point out of stubbornness.

    SECOND EDIT: If you disagree, then the burdon is on you to prove it. Please provide a source that confirms the local Syrian government would have prevented a Jewish religious governing body to self-govern its religion -- which all other provinces were permitted to do. A Jew remains a Jew whether in Jerusalem or Damascus and therefore would be subject to the Roman-sanctioned Sanhedrin.

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  • 1 decade ago

    The Roman were very tolerant of the cultural practices of Israel including the religious laws. The only thing that Rome barred the Sanhedrin from doing is carrying out a death sentence. As in the case of Jesus. When he was brought before Pilot, Pilot responded to take him away and judge him by their laws. They then made of the charge of sedition or rising against Caesar which was punishable by Roman Law.

    That is why Paul had the authority granted him to do these acts, because believing in Christ was considered by the Sanhedrin to be believing in another God which is against one of the ten commandments.

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  • I may be wrong, but I believe it was in his authority as a Roman citizen, not as an agent of the Sanhedrin, that he arrested Christians.

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  • 6 years ago

    Basically, the Jews in Rome were like Muslims who get to practice Sharia Law in non-Muslim countries. To an extent, Saul was well within his right to operate in the authority of high official of Judaism.

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  • 1 decade ago

    The Sanhedrin did have authority, as it was the highest authority in Judaism at the time.

    They could do all but kill. Only the Romans could kill.

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  • 7 years ago

    Briefly explained, Saul's authority did not come from the full Sanhedrin, but from the High Priest, himself, as head of the Jews's religion (Judaism). The Sanhedrin would be involved after Saul brought any prisoners back to Jerusalem. The High Priest's authority in Jewish religious matters extended beyond Roman administrative boundaries and was not affected by the regular limitations of Roman civil law. More details are given below:

    [Act 9:1-2 KJV] "1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem."

    The early followers of Christ had yet to bear the title "Christians," which came later (Acts 11:26). At the time of Saul's journey to Damascus they were referred to as "the way" or "this way" (Acts 9:2). Following the stoning of Stephen, they were treated as an aberrant and dangerous sect of Judaism (Acts 8:1-4) but not a separate religion.

    Saul’s letters of authority to arrest any followers of "this way" in the Damascene synagogues and bring them back to Jerusalem for trial and punishment were granted within the sphere of Judaism, which was outside of regular Roman laws or courts and extended beyond the province of Judea into synagogues anywhere in the empire.

    The High Priest exercised his authority under the general Roman policy of toleration toward the Jews. Judaism had been tolerated in Rome by diplomatic treaty with Graeco-Judaean (Hasmonean) rulers during the later days of the Roman Republic (161 B.C.) when Judea sought protection and aid in its struggle against the Seleucid rulers (I Maccabees 8:17-20; and Josephus, Antiquities, 13. 9:2). Rome’s toleration continued in the days of Julius Caesar “because their ancestral laws predated Rome. Jews had legal privileges as a collegia (defined by Roman law as religious & legal entities), giving them the right to assemble, have common meals and property, govern and tax themselves, and enforce their own discipline.” (http://www.yashanet.com/studies/romstudy/rom1.htm) Toleration by Rome toward Jews was reiterated in the Edict of Augustus in 1 B.C., which protected practice of their “own customs in accordance with their ancestral law” in the Temple and the synagogues ( ‪Edict of Augustus‬, Josephus, Antiquities 16.162–5). In particular, there was a very Jew-tolerant attitude by the Romans in the latter years of Tiberias (the setting of Acts Chapter 9) in reaction to the fall of Sejanus, the Jew-hating Praetorian Prefect: "Therefore, all people in every country, even if they were not naturally well inclined towards the Jewish nation, took great care not to violate or attack any of the Jewish customs of laws" (Philo, De Legatione ad Gaium, xxiv).

    My Personal Speculation: Of course, Saul would encounter the risen Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, so it never came to be actually seen what the Roman civil authorities might have done in reaction to the High Priest extending his authority in this affair. Given that he did give Saul letters to be used in the arrest of early followers of Christ, and Saul acted upon that authority, it appears to me, at least, that he was acting within the scope of his office, perhaps in an "act first, answer questions later," move if anyone had appealed to the Romans. A hint of what the Roman reaction might have been is seen years later, when Saul, now called Paul, was accused of violating the Temple, a religious offense, and placed before the Sanhedrin (Acts Chapters 22 and 23). Later, after Paul had been brought before the Roman governor, the charges changed. The first charges brought against him were political and civil, that of sedition, because Paul's accusers knew the Romans were not primarily interested in the Jewish religious laws. (Acts 24:5-8) (They did something similar in the trial of Jesus before Pilate. When Pilate failed to be moved by their claims that Jesus had violated religious law, the Jewish leaders changed tactics, pressuring Pilate by stating that Jesus claimed to be a king, which could be treason against the emperor, a political charge a Roman governor could not ignore.) Paul languished in Roman custody as a political pawn (Acts 24:27) and because the governor sought a bribe (Acts 24:26). Paul's only recourse was to appeal his case to Caesar, a right he had as a Roman citizen (Acts 25:10 and 11).

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